Sikorsky Aircraft's CH-53K 'King Stallion' completed its first test flight this morning, the company told R&WI. Previously scheduled flights of the super heavy lift helicopter, designed to replace the U.S. Marine Corps' aging CH-53E, had been rescheduled several times as the program struggled to meet stringent requirements for an aircraft that can carry twice the payload of the -53E over the same range and also match the shipboard footprint of its predecessor. The most recent cancellation occurred in June 2014 after the main rotor gear box failed during ground tests. Sikorsky expects the 53K to reach initial operating capability in 2019. The US. Marine Corps expects to purchase 200 of the new helicopter.
UPDATE: The prototype aircraft, dubbed Engineering Development Model-1, conducted the first 30-minute flight in a planned 2,000-hr flight test program that will use four test aircraft, according to the company's press release. EDM-1 "performed hover, sideward, rearward and forward flight control inputs while in ground effect hover up to 30 feet above the ground." The test flight was conducted at Sikorsky's West Palm Beach, Florida-based Development Flight Center.
Photo courtesy of Sikorsky Aircraft